Semantic web technology is on the verge of becoming commercially viable for businesses looking to develop their web capabilities.
That's according to John Davies, head of next-generation web research at BT, who told ZDNet.co.uk's sister site, silicon.com: "We've really seen the emergence of semantic web from the research lab. We're just on the cusp of R&D to a range of real world applications."
Semantic web — a concept championed by 'father of the web' Tim Berners-Lee — is the development of a world wide web where the context of information and services is defined to make web content more searchable and useful.
Davies explained there is now a greater focus on what semantic web technology can do for businesses and how it might be taken up more commercially.
"Semantic web has been around for a while now. A lot of work has been done on the building blocks," he explained.
There will be significant increases in the real-world application of semantic technology over the next 12 to 18 months, according to Davies, who cited examples where semantic web technology is already in use.
Yahoo has developed the SearchMonkey service, which makes web content more useful and visually appealing by adding semantic information, which in turn can drive traffic.
Similarly, Thomson Reuters has made semantic technology available to others through its OpenCalais service, which was originally developed to boost the company's algorithmic trading capabilities.
Microsoft is also investing in semantic web after acquiring natural language search firm Powerset for $100m (£50m) earlier in August.
Davies said BT is developing semantic technology able to interrogate a range of databases through a single search query.
BT is already using this tech in its sales and billing departments and plans to roll it out to its business customers in the near future.
In the long term, Davies says semantic web technology could be applied to service-oriented architecture and used to search for online services in the cloud.